After Sunday’s lunchtime 3-1 shock defeat against Watford, commentators, pundits and fans have been questioning “what’s happened to Man United?”
It was the job Jose Mourinho wanted, and it seemed most fans wanted him. Not for his style but for the confidence and probable trophies he would bring.
Yet while Manchester City looks untouchable, United appears to be in a free fall. So what are the problems and how can they be fixed by Mourinho?
1. Admit Rooney isn’t a number 10 or 6
Louis Van Gaal admitted Rooney wasn’t a number 10 and used the England international as a midfielder. Mourinho said he wouldn’t do this but against Watford he did.
Mourinho cannot still think Rooney is worth keeping on the pitch. He’s not effective in attack or midfield and slows the play down constantly when on the ball.
Mourinho must acknowledge what the fans have been saying for a while. Rooney isn’t in good form and doesn’t deserve to be in the first eleven.
2. Marcus Rashford should be the second name on the team sheet
Marcus Rashford should be second behind only David De Gea.
He’s confident, lightning quick, runs at the defense and scores. At this moment in time, he is the only player that scares an opponent’s defense.
In fact, Mourinho should go a step further and make Rashford the focal point in attack, shaping the formation around him.
3. Quality not quantity in attack
United have limited movement in the attacking third because they have no one who wants to hug the touchline or find space. Everyone wants the ball to feet so they can run at the opponent.
Without movement or positions that stretch a defense, where can a spark of creativity come from? Even when Rashford gets on the ball this narrow offense leaves him easily crowded out.
United should continue to play with three up front but with a better balance between players.
In Zlatan, Rashford and Juan Mata or Henrikh Mkhitaryan there is power, pace and footballing intelligence.
4. A missing ingredient in midfield
United have fantastic midfield options, but a balance isn’t possible if they stick to Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba.
With Fellaini and Pogba, they have power and drive but lack a maestro. This is why Mourinho dropped Rooney into midfield, but he isn’t a calming influence. He’s wayward and out of form.
Mourinho does have options, the best being Michael Carrick.
Carrick is 35, but United have always looked better with him on the pitch. They could also try Daley Blind or Ander Herrera.
5. A lack of width
United’s only width comes from full backs Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw.
The runs wide we saw last seasan from Martial or Jesse Lingard are gone. So why doesn’t Mourinho just make it official and say Valencia and Shaw are wingbacks.
With a better balance in midfield and attack, Pogba, Mata or Mkhitaryan and Rashford could easily support the wingbacks as they attack.
In defense, Blind or Carrick (if in midfield) can drop back into central defense creating a back three. Pogba and Fellaini could easily provide cover in front of the defense.
It’s very easy to play armchair manager but Mourinho has to do something to inspire a United team many believed could be champions this season.